You haven’t experienced Shanghai until you’ve had a bowl of scallion oil noodles. It’s a quintessential old Shanghai dish, a humble, yet extremely satisfying, bowl of noodles. This dish reveals the secret of that complex umami flavor used in many of Shanghai’s signature dishes: scallion oil. Scallions are slowly fried in oil so that their flavor infuses it. This flavored oil serves as the base of the dish. By itself, the soy sauce–rock sugar mix makes a lovely, deep, sweet yet savory sauce, but it often needs something else—pork, chicken, eggplant, or loads of scallions—for additional flavor. Dried shrimp is an excellent addition that supplies an extra bit of umami. If you’re craving something with more protein, fry some ground pork in your scallion oil until browned and crisp, then turn off the heat and proceed with the recipe.
NOTE: You can also make scallion oil ahead of time. Quadruple the recipe below and follow the steps. Let it cool and pour it into a sterile jar; it will keep in the fridge for up to 1 month. Use it any- time to elevate any dish you’re making.
- Place the dried shrimp in a small bowl with hot water to cover and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Smash the scallions with the side of a meat cleaver. Pat dry with a paper towel to avoid any water droplets from causing the oil to splatter during stir-frying.
- Heat the oil in a well-seasoned wok over medium-low. Add the scallion segments and let them fry slowly, so they turn yellow without burning. Stir occasionally so the segments brown evenly. This slowly rendered-out flavor is essential to this recipe—be patient and let the toasty flavor infuse the oil. I usually let the scallions cook for 20 to 30 minutes, but for a deeper flavor cook them at a lower heat for longer, even up to 1 hour. I’ll often make big batches of this oil that I store in the refrigerator; for this recipe I use 3 tablespoons. Reduce the heat to low, add the shrimp, and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix together the dark and light soy sauces, vinegar, and sugar.
- Increase the heat to medium and immediately pour the soy sauce mixture into the wok. The sauce will bubble finely and foam (if it bubbles too much, your heat is too high) and begin to caramelize. Stir to dissolve the sugar and let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken. Turn off the heat. Add a pinch of white pepper. Add the cooked noodles to the wok and toss to combine. Divide the noodles between two bowls, making sure to scoop up the scallion segments.
From the book MY SHANGHAI by Betty Liu. Copyright © 2021 by Betty Liu. Published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission. Photo credit Betty Liu.